TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday that his government’s plan to phase out Grade 9 academic streaming will start next fall with a new math course.

Currently, high school students in Ontario are asked to choose between more practical, hands-on applied courses and more theoretical academic courses in core subjects like math, science and English.

The practice has been a subject of much debate, with critics arguing that the streaming process has disproportionately impacted racialized and low-income students, resulting in lower graduation rates and test scores.

Speaking at Queen’s Park on Thursday afternoon, Ford said academic streaming “can exclude a student form a world of opportunities later in life.”

He went on to state that the phasing out of streaming will begin in September 2021, starting with Grade 9 math courses. A new math curriculum for the de-streamed class will be unveiled at a later date, the government said.

“Our Black, Indigenous and racialized students face more social and economic barriers to success than their fellow students and that’s just not right,” Ford said. “They deserve the same shot at their dreams as any other young person.”

Ford also said that it was “unfair” and “not right” to ask students to make a decision at the age of 14 that could determine the course of their high school and post-secondary careers.

No further details have been provided regarding a timeline for the de-streaming of other core subjects or what the new curriculum will look like.

Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities Jamil Jivani praised the policy, saying that he was streamed as a teenager and knows first-hand the impact the process can have on students.

“I was put into applied courses. And I know that very few people who experience streaming in our schools ever make it to a place like this, standing before you at an official podium alongside the premier of Ontario,” Jivani said. “By the grace of God I am here.”

Teachers’ unions and advocates of the change have said that while they approve of ending streaming, they want to know more about what kind of supports will be available for both students and teachers.

Advocacy group People for Education, who has been lobbying for an end to streaming for years, said earlier this week that further details are needed about how students with different learning styles will be supported during the transition.

“You can’t just flip a switch,” spokesperson Annie Kidder said.

The change also comes as teachers are struggling to learn a new math curriculum for students in Grade 1 to Grade 8 in September 2020 while also adjusting to a new yet-to-be-decided educational format that would deal with the risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ford government is also proposing additional and mandatory anti-racism and anti-discrimination training before the end of the calendar year.

A day earlier, the government has also introduced a bill that would ban the suspension of students in junior kindergarten up until Grade 3 for “non-serious offences.” The motion is part of a larger omnibus bill that is meant to help the province deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic once the state of emergency has been lifted.

If passed, the suspension ban would go into effect this September.